Just a spacey set of cool miscellany items this time… about… space!
Here is a terrifically concise and persuasive animation about one of the bases for orbital mechanics — explaining why you must have several images of an asteroid, against the starry background, in order to determine its orbit.
Modeling the universe, starting with the Big Bang, only became possible with the advent of supercomputers, fantastic software and the realization of the existence of mysterious dark matter. Combining all of these resulted in what may be one of the great scientific achievements of our time — a model that portrays the Bang, then natural evolution into the cosmos we see today, with the same array of numbers of sizes and types of galaxies. If verified, it is a stunning validation of our current models and our growing ability as simulators… then creators?… in our own right.
NASA’s Kepler mission has found a planet roughly the same size as Earth, orbiting the “Goldilocks” or potentially habitable zone near an M-class (small-red) sun, about 500 light years from our system. I’ll be very interested to see if calculations show it likely to be tidal-locked. In any event, we have a good target for the next generation of planet-studying telescopes.
Meanwhile, computer models indicate that having a companion planet may increase the chance of life on earth-sized planets.
The European Space Agency’s elderly comet-hunting Rosetta satellite woke up from hibernation on Jan. 20. After a decade-long journey the satellite is approaching its target, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and has sent back photos of the comet.
Anthropologist Cameron Smith suggests that any interstellar colony starship would have to carry a minimum of 10,000 people to secure success on a genetic basis… assuming no further replenishment of breeding stock from Earth. This conflicts with University of Florida’s John Moore who, in 2002, figured only 150 people might bring enough diversity for a viable gene pool. One wonders how much this is altered if you can bring frozen sperm, ova and even embryos.
Pope Francis would absolutely baptize an alien from Mars, if one showed up at the Vatican and asked for it. “If God prompts some Martians to come to Earth, find the Pope, and say “we want in on this Catholicism thing.” The pope would probably say “OK. cool.” But probably in Latin,” says The Wire.
Is this really true? “Creationist Ken Ham has said that the U.S. space program is a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.” So much for the thoughtful Christian theological musings about other life and possible other redemptions, by solid minds like C.S. Lewis.
Ah but then televangelist Pat Robertson shockingly has urged Young Earth Christians to can it. “We’ve got to be realistic that the dating of Bishop Ussher just doesn’t comport with anything that’s found in science,” Robertson continued, “and you can’t just totally deny the geological formations that are out there.” Dang. It’s enough to make one believe in miracles.
==Back to Earth…and Mars==
Zircons are our probes into the very earliest days of Planet Earth. Now – in Australia – one was found with an age of 4.4 billion years. It cooled just 100 million years after the planet formed! Amazing implications.
A new analysis of data from NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) shows that a July 2012 solar storm of unprecedented size would have wiped out global electronic systems if it had occurred just nine days earlier. At long last, some of the powers in our protector caste are starting to take this kind of thing seriously. But in time?
Photographer David A. Kodama took this composite image capturing the unmanned, next-generation Falcon 9 rocket launch trajectory as it blasted off from the SpaceX launch pad at Vandenberg, Sept 29.
Those Norwegian skydivers who “caught” a “meteorite” falling past them? All of my instincts told me… no way, man. And now it seems more likely I was right. Some possibilities often seem too cool to be plausible. Stay skeptical, my friends.
The Curiosity Rover has completed two years roving over the surface of Mars. For a collection of stunning images, take a look at Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, by Mark Kaufman. Meanwhile, NASA is planning for its next rover — the Mars2020 mission.
Here’s a Kickstarter project worth checking out. “Shrox” wants to fund production of a calendar of art depicting the settlement of Mars.